As spring approaches, you're probably gearing up for that annual top-to-bottom home and garden refresh. Whether you prefer to tackle spring cleaning with a plan in hand or you're hoping to squeeze a few makeover projects in between the time you'll be spending outdoors, there are a few simple ways to get it all done (while also minimizing your impact on the environment). In the event that you're looking to do a total makeover, we've also rounded up a few items that add long-lasting value to any space. Read on for a few quick and easy ways to clean and refresh those trouble spots—in a day or less.
Start with the Dirtiest Areas First
Ever wonder how professional house cleaners finish so fast—and do it so well? Dust from the top down, so you can sweep up (and not just stir up) what settles on the ground with a vacuum, before wiping down the floors. Also, scrub dirtiest to cleanest. In the bathroom, for instance, wipe down the toilet, add bowl cleaner, and prop the brush under the seat to let it drip dry. Then, spritz the tub or shower with cleaner and let it sit; spray and wipe down the sink and counters. Go back to spritz and wipe the toilet exterior, swipe and rinse the shower, and finish with the floor. In the kitchen, start with the stove and counters.
Keep Out Dirt, Too
To prevent it (or sand) from crossing your threshold, along with bacteria and chemicals, take off your shoes and wipe your pet's paws. Washing your hands as soon as you enter your place is also a good way to head off germs, says Becky Rapinchuk, author of "Clean Mama's Guide to a Healthy Home."
Declutter at the Door
If you don't let unnecessary papers and mail into your home, they can't pile up and give you agita. "To the motto 'reduce, reuse, recycle,' add 'refuse,'" advises ShiSiu, author of "Zero Waste." Unsubscribe from junk mail (you can do so at ecocycle.org), then put a lidded recycling basket in your entryway or mudroom to intercept the rest.
Should you find that spring cleaning isn't getting the job done, you might want to replace one or more items in your home. These eco-friendly tips will help you do so while still being good to the earth.
Look for Sustainable Wood
When shopping for furniture, cabinets, trim, or flooring, scan for the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) logo—it signifies that the company helps promote responsible forest management—or find certified suppliers on their website. Even better, consider salvaged wood. "Old-growth lumber is stronger, more stable, and more resistant to rot and termites," says Chris Stock, owner of Philadelphia Salvage Company. "Plus, it looks nice."
Pick Zero-VOC Paint
Choose paint formulas without volatile organic compounds. Check the label carefully to make sure both the base and colorant comply. Lines like Benjamin Moore Ben and Natura, and Sherwin-Williams, Eco-Select, and Harmony fit the bill.
Choose Energy Star Star Appliances
A new refrigerator with this label uses at least 15 percent less energy than those options without it, and 40 percent less than conventional 2001 models.